Your Hospital Stay

Admission to hospital

Most patients are admitted the same day as their surgery. Check in at the front desk. You will be directed to the surgical admission area to:

  • Change into a hospital gown 
  • Sign your Consent for Surgery form (if you have not already done so)
  • Complete admission procedures 
  • Receive pre-operative medications and have an intravenous started, if ordered by your doctor

One family member or friend can stay with you until you are taken to the operating room. They will be asked to take your belongings home for safekeeping and bring them back after your surgery. If you are alone, the staff will transfer your items to your room.

Before going to the operating room, you will be asked to:

  • Empty your bladder
  • Remove your glasses/contact lenses, prosthesis, wigs, body piercings and/or dentures

You will be moved to the operating room “holding area”. You will be asked questions you have already answered. This is to double-check all your information. Your surgeon or anesthesiologist may visit you there.

You will be taken into the operating room when it is ready. A nurse will stay with you to explain what is happening, answer any questions and offer support. The length of time of your surgery depends on the type of surgery.

After surgery you will be moved to the recovery room. The recovery room nurses will watch you closely. They will give you medication for pain and nausea as needed.

The length of time you are in the recovery room will depend on the type of surgery and how you respond to the anesthetic. It is common to not remember much of your time in the recovery room.

If you are staying overnight, you will be moved to a nursing unit. There are many things that can delay your arrival in your room after surgery. We request that family/friends allow extra time for you to get to your room.

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What to expect after surgery

After General Anesthesia

You may feel some minor side effects after general anesthesia. These can include sore throat, hoarseness, nausea, vomiting, headache, sleepiness, lack of appetite or muscle aches and pains. They almost always go away in 24 to 48 hours. Call your doctor or nurse for further advice if they do not settle down.

Post operative confusion (delirium) is more likely to happen if you are 75 years or older, take sleeping pills, anti-anxiety pills, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or use illicit drugs regularly. Telling the nurse before your surgery can help prevent this from happening. 

Learn how to recognize delirium by reading the Pamphlet for Families: "Delirium in the Older Person: A Medical Emergency" (PDF) or by watchign the VIHA video "Delirium in the Older Person: A Family Guide".

Anesthetic drugs, including intravenous (IV) sedation may stay in the body for up to 24 hours after your operation. During this time you may be impaired. Therefore, for 24 hours after anesthetic or intravenous sedation it is recommended that you DO NOT:

  • Make important decisions or sign documents
  • Drive a car or work with machinery
  • Do any dangerous activities like bike riding, swimming, or climbing ladders
  • Travel alone by public transportation e.g. bus
  • Go to work or do business
  • Drink alcohol
  • Take tranquilizers or sleeping pills
  • Have primary responsibility for the care of another person e.g. babies, small children, frail elderly

Pain Control

Your nurse will help to take care of any discomfort you may have. Pain can be managed in several ways. These include pills, injections, patient controlled analgesia (PCA) pumps and epidural injections. Your surgeon and/or anesthesiologist will decide which is the best method for you depending on the type of surgery you have.

Pain medications work best when taken at regular intervals and before the pain gets too bad. Do not hesitate to tell your nurse when you are getting uncomfortable. You should be comfortable enough to turn, move your arms and legs in bed and to do deep breathing and coughing exercises.

To help measure your discomfort, your nurse may ask you to rate your pain using a “pain intensity scale”. One easy method is to use a number scale and rate your pain from 0 - 10. Zero means no pain and 10 means the worst pain you can imagine. You can also describe pain with words like none, mild, moderate, severe or worst possible.

Pain Intensity Scale

      0     1      2       3      4       5     6      7     8       9     10
       No                           Distressing                       Worst
      Pain                           Pain                            Possible

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Incisions, dressings and drains

Incisions are closed with stitches (sutures), clips (staples) or dissolvable stitches. Your surgeon will decide which is the best method for you. You may have a bandage over your incision that will be changed as needed. Sometimes your surgeon needs to put a drain near the incision to help remove excess fluid. If this applies to you, your surgeon will explain this before surgery.

Fluids and diet

Your intravenous (IV) will be removed as soon as you are drinking enough fluids. Your diet will be increased depending on the type of surgery you’ve had and how you are tolerating the food.


Follow post-op activity instructions from your surgeon. Generally, you will recover quicker if you move about as soon as possible. Do not get up on your own until the nurse tells you it is okay. Your nurse will encourage you to deep breathe and cough and to do leg exercises while you are in bed. You will be helped out of bed as soon as it is allowed for your type of surgery.

Breathing & Leg Exercises Before and After Surgery (PDF)


Your nurse will watch your urinary and bowel functions after surgery. Some patients will have a catheter to drain urine placed in their bladder before or during surgery. If this applies to you, your surgeon or nurse will explain this before your surgery.

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